The concept of a backlink audit conjures up visions of an IRS raid.
But, the process is essential to your marketing strategy.
Spammy backlinks can do a real number on your website, dragging you down with irrelevant content and a bad reputation.
With link audits, you’re on the lookout for bad actors trying to drag you down and irrelevant nonsense gunking up your PageRank.
Now, ideally, you should keep an eye out for a backlink audit tool that spots all potential problems without a lot of digging and configuring on your end.
Keep reading for a look at some of your options, as well as what metrics make a good tool.
What a Good Backlink Auditor Should Look For
In general, a backlink auditing tool needs to quickly spot the following in order to help you perform a comprehensive link analysis:
- Pagerank or Reputation — How does your site stack up against the competition?
- Incoming and outgoing links — Your audit tool of choice should provide a list of both incoming and outgoing links so you can get a sense of whether your latest additions are relevant.
- Anchor text and keywords — The text that contains the link to your website should be contextual—both for your site and within the linking page. If the anchor text is linked through irrelevant keywords, it probably isn’t boosting your reputation.
- Additionally, a good link auditor will sniff out low-quality directory links, spam and negative SEO.
Here’s a quick snapshot of some of your best backlink audit tool options, with something for every price point.
5 Backlink Audit Tools to Sniff Out Bad Links and Protect Your Site
Majestic offers a free account to anyone who signs up with an email address, which comes with a very limited collection of tools.
The site explorer preview is free—enter your URL of choice, and you’ll immediately be presented with a full dashboard of backlink stats. Still, you’ll need to subscribe to look at the full scope of stats—including any valuable backlink quality metrics.
For auditing, the bulk backlink checker is the tool for the job, which is available with the Lite plan. The bulk backlink checker works to analyze the backlink numbers for up to 400 URLs, allowing you to quickly check your—or your clients’—sites for quality.
Here, you’ll get a look at trust flow and citation flow, plus the topics covered on the page where your link was used. It’s a quick way to learn whether your backlinks make sense or if you’re getting caught in a spam trap.
And, setting it up is as easy as entering your domain into a box and letting Majestic work their magic.
Majestic has some definite advantages, like the ability to plug in to several tools for deeper analysis. It’s not a full SEO service, and as such, you may end up paying a decent amount for a tool that focuses exclusively on backlinks.
Still, the insights are valuable. For example, the Site Explorer provides an instant site audit of your website, looking at metrics like link counts and flow metrics, as well as a list of new links, 404 errors and more.
Below, you can take a look at the Summary tab. This is a snapshot of links by topic and citation flow. From there, you can visit other tabs and look at lost links, anchor text and referring domains.
Ultimately, I liked Majestic’s dual-pronged approach to link checking. You can run something of a mini-audit with the bulk link checker or dive deeper with the Site Explorer. Additionally, the platform comes with a Backlink History tool, which looks at your link profile over the past five years. Not an essential, exactly, but an opportunity to learn from our SEO strategies past.
Majestic Lite starts at $49.99 per month, which includes some of the tools in the suite, including the backlink checker, which is likely the most important.
Unlike some of the other tools we’ve looked at, when you open up your Monitor Backlinks account, you’ll immediately have a basic report ready, populated with the latest link acquisitions and competitor activity.
While Monitor Backlinks’ suite doesn’t exactly have anything called an audit tool, the whole dashboard focuses on link quality and weeding out the good from the bad. You’ll get a clear picture of the link source and quality, and can head over to the Backlinks tab to sort links by spam score, domain authority and more.
For a more comprehensive report, head over to the Reports tab. There, you can export your data as a .CSV file and view that list in Excel.
Filter out missing links and no-follow links—which won’t impact your SEO score.
Then look for the number of links that point to foreign or irrelevant websites, spam sites, or sites that have low-quality content. To help you out, you can sort by any of the metrics to weed out harmful content. You can do this directly in the tool, or download the report, as I just mentioned.
In this example, I opted to look only at links with a spam score of 7.
Then, make a list of links that need to be disavowed. You can upload an Excel sheet or manually enter bad links into the app.
What’s more, Monitor Backlinks is relatively affordable. Plans start at $21 a month, and you can take it for a spin with a 30-day free trial.
While there’s no free trial for the full service (instead they offer a phone call…), SEMrush does offer a free limited access plan that’s pretty comprehensive. Paid plans start at $99 per month.
That said, SEMrush provides a backlink checker as part of its free service. Just enter your domain of choice, and you’ll get a quick report—a calendar that showcases new backlinks as they come in, no-follow vs. do-follow, and your overall authority score.
Additionally, the free membership comes with a backlink audit tool that you can choose to connect with your Google Search Console account or run a scan directly from SEMrush. This feature is especially handy as it provides a “toxic score,” aimed at helping you avoid Google penalties.
From there, you can opt to disavow the toxic link straight from the tool or do some further investigation on your own to make sure you agree with the unsavory designation.
Google asks that you first reach out to the website owner before adding them to the disavow list, and SEMRush does allow you to send an email straight from their portal so you don’t have to click around much. If the site owner fails to respond or refuses to take it down—disavow.
Google Search Console
Google’s analytics hub, Google Search Console, is a bare-bones link auditor. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you’re running a backlink audit, but this option can work if you’re on a budget or don’t want to download a whole other tool.
Conducting a backlink audit through GSC is 100% free, but it’s the most labor-intensive approach on this list.
You do this by first logging in to Google Search Console. Then, click “Search Traffic” and “Links to your Site.”
In the image below, you’ll see a list of which sites link the most. Open the full list of domains and download the table.
Easy enough, right? Okay, the next step is where things get tedious.
You’ll need to analyze each link in your downloaded table. Ignore those links that don’t exist anymore, as well as no-follow links from social networks.
With Google Search Console, you’ll end up with an Excel spreadsheet with fairly limited metrics.
You’ll get the full URL path in column A and any applicable error codes in column B—sort by error code to weed these out. Column C lists links by the date they were first discovered.
While GSC doesn’t come with all of the colorful charts and graphs you’ll find with Monitor Backlinks or Majestic, conducting regular audits will make it easy to do your own research on your backlinks.
That said, I found the Link Explorer to be the best bet for a quick and easy link audit.
The Link Explorer allows you to input your URL (and your competitors’) and run a quick report. Enter up to five domains at a time and view your spam score, domain authority and internal and external links.
The tool is still in beta, but it seems pretty solid. The overview page (shown below) gives you a look at your overall domain score, ranking keywords and inbound links. Navigate through the tabs to get more info about say, anchor text or linking domains.
The inbound links tab highlights the latest sites, as well as whether they’re follow or no-follow. The site allows you to sort by authority score or weed out the no-follows.
You can also see the spam score, domain authority and compare your site with a competitor’s.
The entry-level plan starts at $99, while the Pro plan (their more popular option) runs at $179 a month. Moz lets users take the tool for a 30-day long spin, though they do collect credit card information.
It’s worth pointing out that if you’re in the market for only an auditing tool, Moz will still charge you for the full SEO toolset—which includes keyword research, a tool for link building opportunities, plus the link auditing tool and a site crawler that spots SEO issues.
A backlink audit tool still requires some work and know-how on your end. I honestly really liked using Moz, SEMrush and Monitor Backlinks. All were very straightforward, and all include ample reading material and walk-throughs that help you get the hang of things.
As a freelancer, I could potentially imagine myself shelling out for something like Moz, but the $179/month plan could be a little expensive.
That said, I was particularly impressed with what both SEMrush and Moz offer for free. SEMrush, in particular, provides tools that prove their utility—they’re not just a teaser for a more premium service.
While it’s an essential part of your SEO strategy, GSC isn’t the most efficient backlink audit tool. The upshot is that it’s free, but instead of the interactive, easy-to-sort backlink stats, you’re stuck combing through an Excel sheet.
Ultimately, all of these tools provide users with the ability to get valuable backlink insights. The best of the bunch is up for grabs—it just comes down to a preference for the different charts, additional tools and price.